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~ How to: Make Old-Fashioned Very Vanilla Pudding ~

IMG_0177Exotically fragrant, vanilla is said to be the world's most popular flavor (and is the second most expensive next to saffron).  One would be hard pressed to find an American kitchen pantry that doesn't contain at least one bottle of pure vanilla extract and/or a whole vanilla bean or two. Why? Something wonderful happens when any form of pure vanilla gets added to all sorts of sweet or savory dishes.  My very vanilla pudding recipe is a spin-off of my grandmother's vanilla pudding recipe, and, it is the base recipe and starting point for all three of my favorite pudding recipes.

IMG_0193My grandmother made fantastic pudding, none of which took much longer to prepare than boxed quick-cooking options.  Her recipes for vanilla, chocolate and butterscotch pudding were very similar to each other (except for the flavoring), which, made them remarkably easy to commit to memory.  The only time she changed one was when she was making pie filling instead of pudding.  For a pie, she added an extra egg yolk and an extra tablespoon of cornstarch, which, in a nutshell, is the easiest way to define the difference between a pudding and a pie filling.  That said, whether she was making vanilla, chocolate or butterscotch pudding or pie filling, she added vanilla extract to each one, in addition to any other extract or flavoring du jour.  Read on:

IMG_0100Something wonderful happens when exotically fragrant vanilla gets added to all sorts of sweet or savory dishes.

IMG_7867Vanilla is easy to love -- its scent is enchanting, its taste is exotic.  It can be used in an array of sweet and savory culinary applications, but, it is indisputably the number one flavoring in desserts. For my taste, most published recipes don't add enough vanilla.  I typically double the recommended amount -- yes, I double it and I have never once been disappointed.  Back in her day, my grandmother only had access to vanilla beans or vanilla extract.  Happily, since then, two other products have entered our vanilla world and all home cooks should know about them. 

IMG_7881A bit about vanilla bean paste and vanilla powder:  Everyone who bakes stores high-quality pure vanilla extract (not imitation flavoring) in their pantry along with a few vanilla bean pods too. They're available everywhere, with extract being more economical than whole pods.  You'll find two other vanilla products in my pantry too: vanilla bean paste & vanilla powder.

Vanilla bean paste is a sweet, syrupy mixture full of vanilla beans that have been scraped out of the pods.  Like vanilla extract, it's full of IMG_7887natural vanilla flavor, plus, it's got all the pretty speckled beans in it too.  I think of it as a convenient cross between the extract and the pod, and, I like to add it to pudding because the seeds distribute themselves evenly throughout the mixture.  1 tablespoon paste = 1 tablespoon extract = 1 bean pod.

Vanilla powder is a free-flowing sugar which may be used in place of pure extract in any recipe.  It stirs into beverages, and, gets sprinkled onto desserts.  I particularly like it for making pudding and cake frosting because it doesn't affect the color like extract does.  1 tablespoon powder = 1 tablespoon extract.

My very vanilla pudding recipe is a spinoff of my grandmother's recipe & is the base recipe for all of my pudding recipes.

My Old-Fashioned Very Vanilla Pudding recipe should technically be called Old-Fashioned Very French Vanilla Pudding.  For that matter, so are my other pudding recipes (~ How to: Make Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding ~, and ~ How to: Make Old-Fashioned Butterscotch Pudding ~). Why?  While there is little difference between different high-quality vanilla products used to flavor pudding (or ice cream and other desserts for that matter), French vanilla pudding is based on the French method of making egg custard.  This means it contains egg yolks, which results in a deeper shade of yellow and a creamier texture.  That's good news for pudding lovers like me.

IMG_00701  cup heavy cream + 1 cup whole milk, or, 2 cups half and half

2  tablespoons:  pure pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, your choice

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

3  tablespoons salted butter

2  large egg yolks

1  large egg

3/4  cup sugar

3  tablespoons cornstarch

1  tablespoon vanilla powder

IMG_9769IMG_9772IMG_9774IMG_9776~Step 1.  In a 2-cup measuring container, measure and stir together the cream and milk or half and half, extract or paste, and, the salt.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, using a fork, vigorously whisk together the egg yolks and whole egg.  Set aside.  Cut the butter into small cubes and set aside.

IMG_0072 IMG_0076 IMG_0082 IMG_0085~Step 2.  Measure and place the sugar, cornstarch and vanilla powder in a 3-quart saucier or saucepan. Using a wire whisk, thoroughly combine the three.  Whisk in all of the flavored milk mixture, whisking constantly until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.  Turn heat on to medium. Whisking constantly, heat until steaming 2-3 minutes.  Do not simmer or boil.  Turn the heat off, add the butter and whisk until butter is melted and thoroughly incorporated.  Remove from heat.

IMG_0089 IMG_0093 IMG_0097Step 3.  Slowly and in a thin stream, while whisking the eggs constantly with a fork, add 3-4 tablespoons of the steaming liquid to the eggs.  (Note:  This is called "tempering" and it will raise their temperature slowly and just enough to keep them from scrambling upon contact with the steaming hot milk mixture.)  In a slow, steady stream, whisk the tempered eggs into the milk mixture.  Return saucier to stovetop.

IMG_0100 IMG_0113~ Step 4.  Over medium heat, whisking constantly, bring mixture slowly to a simmer, 4-5 minutes. Simmer gently, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat and transfer to a 1-quart measuring container.*  Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding and cool about two hours.  Stir and portion into custard cups, cover and chill for several hours (or overnight), or, use as directed in recipe.

*Note:  A lot of pudding recipes instruct to pass the pudding through a fine mesh strainer (into the measuring container) at this point, to achieve an extra-silky-smooth consistency.  This is the type of unnecessary nonsense that causes people to not make pudding.  #1.  Pudding is too thick to pass through a fine strainer or any strainer.  Try it.  It'll make you want to jump off a bridge.

Portion 3/4 cup pudding into each of 4, 1-cup custard cups:

IMG_0123Freshly-whipped cream & butter toffee bits on mine please:

IMG_0144How to:  Make Old-Fashioned Very Vanilla Pudding:  Recipe yields 3 cups pudding/4 servings. 

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; fork; paring knife; cutting board; 3-quart saucier or saucepan; wire whisk; 1-quart measuring container; plastic wrap; 4, 1-cup custard cups

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c90084ab970bCook's Note:  About the only thing I like better than chocolate, vanilla or butterscotch pudding is all of them layered on top of each other with graham crackers separating each flavor.  This dessert, ~ Chocolate, Vanilla and Butterscotch 'Icebox' Cake  ~ was one of my mother's specialties.  I would sit motionless on the counterstool, eyes transfixed on the process, patiently waiting for my lick of the spoon as each pudding got cooked.  Once assembled, she'd put the 'icebox' cake in the refrigerator for what seemed like an eternity, but, it had to chill to set up properly -- well worth the wait.  Eat more pudding. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2023)


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